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Montana Oil Worker Fatality Lawsuit Continues Due to U.S. Supreme Court Decision

Edwards & Culver recently gained the support of the United States Supreme Court for an ongoing oil worker death lawsuit against Continental Resources and numerous independent contractors. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a previous decision from the Montana Supreme Court, which Continental Resources attempted to have overturned in their favor. With the U.S. Supreme Court denying certiorari, the lawsuit can continue in a Montana court, the home state of the decedent, Mr. Zachary Buckles, a Glasgow native, along with his family. Mr. Buckles left behind a very young son.


Mr. Buckles was gauging oil tanks on a Continental Resources well site when he encountered toxic hydrocarbon vapors that killed him. Continental Resources suggests the young man had a heart attack while simultaneously opening the tank to gauge the oil.

When a suit was filed in Montana, Continental immediately moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction in the Montana courts, and the Montana district court agreed. Edwards & Culver appealed to the Montana Supreme Court, which agreed with Edwards & Culver and remanded to the district court. The district court allowed for jurisdictional discovery that included evidence and testimony that Continental supervised the well site at which Mr. Buckles was killed from their Sidney Montana office. Following the new jurisdictional discovery, the district court ruled again it did not have specific jurisdiction over Continental because Buckles did not satisfy the Montana Civil Rule of Procedure 4(b)(1) long-arm jurisdiction.

Again, Edwards & Culver appealed the Montana Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that the lower district court erred and that the jurisdictional facts were so intertwined with the merits that a decision on the jurisdictional issues depends on a decision on the merits. Holding that if Buckles can prove certain elements of liability are connected to Continental Resources' conduct out of its Sidney Montana offices, it would constitute personal jurisdiction. Three of the Montana Supreme Court justices that signed on to the case specially concurred that the facts uncovered during the discovery process in the lower court were enough, as a matter of law, to exercise long-arm jurisdiction over Continental.

Continental then sought a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Continentals writ and the case is now back in Montana courts.


Edwards & Culver, with co-counsel Bob Savage of Sidney Montana, filed the Buckles case in April of 2015. It has taken six years and three appeals to get the Buckles family back in a Montana courtroom. The Buckles family has had to endure this long six years of winding through the various courts and decisions to finally be able to fight for Zachary and the family.


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